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August 2011 Issue
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Pigeon Post, August 2011

Camping in the Cairngorms in Scotland. Photo: Les Fraser

Letter of the month

Do the crime, do the time

I enjoyed the article ‘Home again’ (May, 2011), however, the practice of soaping oneself, as the party did, and then rinsing in the lake should be condemned. I am annoyed that, as the leading outdoors magazine in New Zealand, you didn’t lead the condemnation! Perhaps at the very least you should have edited the reference out and advised the writer the error of their ways?

Recently, an individual supporter of FMC made public the fact he has on numerous occasions taken his dog deep into national parks. Whilst he seemed to glory in the fact, it appears that the FMC executive did little to condemn him.

I am not advocating a public flogging for either of these practices but perhaps tar and feathering could be reintroduced?

In favour of 1080

I think the fact that pests are depleting birdlife to extinction and that 1080 is safe and effective has been proven by science beyond doubt. Hunters enjoy the sight and sound of birds in the bush and with a long term view birds help propagate the forests in which the hunters’ prized mammals graze. DOC is only funded sufficiently to control pests on one eighth of the estate. Presumably the fur industry is looking after some of the rest but is failing miserably because they don’t trap rats and stoats or get possum numbers down to the required levels for commercial reasons.

Ecologist Mike Joy claims that half of our native birds are at risk of extinction. Ninety five per cent of kiwi chicks are killed before adulthood in unprotected areas. I don’t think it is asking too much of hunters to travel to new hunting grounds for six months every few years when so much is at stake. Dog owners should care for their pets when they are at risk whether from 1080, toxic algae, sea slugs or cars.

The United Future Party wants to ban 1080 completely. They want the fur industry to play a greater role in pest management. Peter Dunne has stated this will be a condition of coalition to form the next government. He claims 1080 has failed but he fails to realise that pest control is ongoing because survivors breed and repopulate.

I hope the electorate gives this political pest the message that his policy will increase the lifespan and number of pests. This will accelerate the decline of our irreplaceable native biodiversity and that is totally unacceptable. We absolutely need 1080 until we develop a better solution to this dilemma.

While, ideally, ‘in a perfect world’ there wouldn’t be any need to destroy pests, I have seen and heard for myself over the 12 years I have lived in Wainuiomata what a difference the 1080 drops have made to the bird population in the area.

When I first arrived there, there were very few birds. Around 18 months later, it was obvious something had changed for the better. The birdsong was a delight to hear.

Even in the areas that just have trapping, because of the kiwi in the area, the other bird life is still not as great as in the general hills.

I say continue dropping until we eradicate the pests and have beautiful forest and birds.

– Sally Bray, Wainuiomata

Our native fauna is far more important than introduced pests that the hunting fraternity want to save. When the numbers of deer start to thin out, the hunters go somewhere else, the last thing they want is to wipe them out, and they certainly don’t mind the other pests as they keep the undergrowth down.

The argument is simple, when something better comes up DOC will gladly switch to it, in the meantime, 1080 is the best we’ve got and is very necessary. Some think the only reason for conserving the backcountry is for them to hunt in and can’t get past that idea.

I’ve been upset over the last two summers that every backpacker I’ve spoken to has immediately brought up the 1080 thing, apparently the accommodation places have been plastered with notices warning them not to drink water in the bush as all the streams and rivers are poisoned, it’s not hard to guess who might be doing that!

– Bob Linnell, Nelson

No more 1080

Thanks for the article about the 1080 issue and the opinions of Forest and Bird next to the New Zealand Deerstalkers Association. Rationally, I can see their points, bringing each of them to different conclusions and preferences.

However, I’d like to take the issue to another level: we, mankind, keep intervening with chemical poison, apparently a ‘fast breaking-down’ poison. At the end of the day it still is a chemical poison.

I realise we have messed up with introducing all those species we now call pests. But they are still living beings and they don’t deserve a slow horrible death by a chemical poison.

We think we can take these decisions for whatever valid reasons, but our whole reasoning has started on the wrong track so we can never reach our destination. We keep fighting it and nature will throw up new challenges for us, in different forms, again and again. More chemical poison, more intervening.

We have to let go. Nature will take care of it. Probably not within 20, 50 or 200 years, but nature will take care. Eucalypt trees have developed a method to make possums sick, so maybe rata’s can develop the same. Sure, some will die long before that happens. But nature will come up with a solution – in the 4.6 billion years of the Earth’s history it always has.

– René Aukens, email

It comes as no great surprise that a call for increased use of 1080 has been raised by Environment Commissioner Jan Wright.

Anyone who is remotely connected to a Government department will have the same outlook. This is because all staff are indoctrinated with the same attitude, vigorously defending all negative comment in the use of 1080, so unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the claim to ‘research’ will be seen by opponents of 1080 as flawed from its conception and the conclusion certain.

As a member of Friends of Rotoiti at St Arnaud in Nelson Lakes National Park and on Grampians Hill in Nelson City, I have no trouble with the killing of pest species to protect native birdlife and our groups have killed over 10,000 of them. Killing pests is what we do to save Native Birds, and what we do works.

The issues I have about the use of 1080 are environmental safety – no one really knows for sure if 1080 really is safe in the environment; Indiscriminate use – it’s beyond dispute that 1080 drops do kill huge numbers of the birds it’s supposed to protect; Speed of kills – legislation insists that trapped animals must not suffer and show no sign of life within two minutes. 1080 does not meet this guideline; Time in action – 1080 does not break down in temperatures under around 22°C yet it is often applied in winter; Cost effective –it’s always about the money.

I think we all agree that pests must be controlled to save our Natural heritage going down the sink, but money (or lack thereof) is the real reason that successive Governments will always find that a poison like 1080 is the only simple alternative.

– Bryce Buckland, Nelson

Prize assures safety

Many thanks indeed for the prize of the AMK Heatsheet Emergency Bivvy Sack as a subscriber prize in the April issue. It will be a great comfort to know it is in my pack for emergencies, although I hope I’ll never have to use it!

– Joy Dunsmuir, Arrowtown

Packing the essentials in Scotland

I thought you might like the attached photo that I took yesterday on a misty morning when camping in the Cairngorms in Scotland. You’ll see that I packed all the essentials!

I very much enjoyed the June issue particularly the articles on the Three Pass trip, which brought back happy memories, and the article on being holed up in Park Morpeth Hut when river levels were high.

The same happened to me when I as there but only for one additional night. I remember feeling quite isolated but very glad of the roof over my head!

– Les Fraser, Email

Topsy turvey world

What with all these earthquakes shaking us about, nowadays it is hard to know which way is up – or north or south – it seems.

That may explain why Pat Barrett says in his Wild Places column (April, 2011) that from Coopers Knob in the Port Hills he can see Aoraki/Mt Cook ‘far to the south’. As best as I can make out though, relative to Coopers Knob, the high peak of Aoraki is still more or less positioned where it has long been positioned: roughly 3km to the north. Plonk Coopers Knob down in Mt Cook

National Park on its current latitude and it would have to hold on for dear life somewhere near the summit of Nazomi.

– Aat Vervoorn, Nelson

Heaphy bike ride thumbs-up

I enjoyed your helpful story on riding the Heaphy Track (June, 2011). What a great opportunity to combine a backcountry ride with a classic tramping track.

With friends, I rode the track in two-and-a-half days over Queen’s Birthday weekend. We went from north to south and that is definitely the way to go. It was pretty dry going up to Perry Saddle but very slithery heading back down again.

A great many bikers had ridden the track before us and as a result the track is starting to cut up, with a fair bit of mud and some good potholes (that bring the bike to a complete stop) coming down from James Mackay Hut and then again below Lewis Hut. The swingbridges also proved to be a real challenge and took a lot time.

It will be great when DOC upgrades the bridges and get the track in better nick. Riders going through now will have a pretty mucky time of it.

Your advice about taking spare brake pads was unfortunately neglected. The only spare set we had was eaten by the gritty muck we were riding in. Discs are definitely the way to go. Apart from a cut knee and some minor breakdowns we survived pretty well, although the track is a serious test for bikes. You need to take lots of wet lube and provide for all contingencies!

We met Brian along the track who managed to do the whole thing while suffering from Parkinsons. Despite a fair few crashes he made it. Another rider in the same group rode all the way from Heaphy Hut to Karamea by torchlight, with a bike that was missing a seat. That had to be extremely tough!

All in all, the track in winter is a great adventure and DOC is to be commended for running the pilot programme. From reading the hut books, it appears large numbers of riders have done the track and there is clearly a strong demand for more trips like this being available.

– Chris Mathieson, Lower Hutt

Fire up the hut

A weekend in the wilds is tough for Aucklanders to find. Great Barrier Island, 30 minutes away is a real option. Two airlines fly to Claris. It is not cheap. Each charge around $200 return. Wear your boots, the tramp starts from the aerodrome. Even with a stop for coffee one can be on a track in 20 minutes, less if you can cadge a lift.

On the down side you walk some roads while some tracks look and feel more like roads and the forest is not all pristine. In contrast there are some amazing outlooks out across the Gulf, gnarly routes that test navigation skills and some steep climbs. Large trees, kaka, relics from past timber and mining industries together with the odd stubborn pig are the basis of lively letters to your mother.

The DOC hut at Mt Heale opened earlier this year. It is the Departments newest. Part of a program that includes improving tracks, bridges and signage all aimed at enticing Aucklanders away from their lattes. The hut is set in a landscape of rocky peaks. It looks out toward Little Barrier and the setting sun. It is dramatic. Solar lights, gas cookers, clean toilets. All good.

But the hut is missing a place for a fire! It is insulated but not snug. Fire is the essence of camping, the outdoors, back to nature. The practice and skill of lighting a fire, the ability to dry clothes and cook food. People spin yarns around a fire. A hut without a fire is like a boot without shoelaces – it’s possible but is it real!

Forget the solar lights, give me a fire.

– Emily and Ian Maxwell